5 Tips for Hiking with a Dog

Have you thought about taking your four-legged friend on your next hike? Many dogs love spending time outdoors, and for most canine companions, spending time with their human(s) is the best part of any adventure.

hiker with a dog

If you love spending time on the trails with your furry friend, these tips for hiking with a dog may help!

Hiking with Your Dog 101

Hiking with your dog is a little different from a walk around your neighborhood. It takes a little extra preparation and commitment, but it can be a rewarding adventure for both of you.

Energetic and adventurous dogs may appreciate the change of scenery and shifting terrain of hiking trails. Hiking together is a wonderful bonding time, but it’s important to prepare so that you can both stay safe!

1. Check Trail Rules

tips for hiking with puppy

Before setting out on your favorite trail, you may want to check the rules for the area. Not all parks allow dogs, while others permit them entry but don’t let them on hiking trails. For example, many U.S. National Parks prohibit dogs, but only seven allow pups, and you must comply with the park restrictions.

You may want to try a trail or park that has an area designated for free runs so that you can let your pup off their leash for a bit. However, these areas often specify that the dogs must respond to voice commands to run off-leash. If your pup doesn’t always follow your commands, you may not want to risk it.

2. Pack the Right Equipment and Essentials

woman hiking with dog

Whether you’re hitting the trails for an hour or an afternoon, you probably want to pack some essentials to make the most of your outing. It’s a good idea to go over-prepared, so you don’t end up stuck in a bad situation!

  • Fresh water is a must for both of you! Pack enough to get you both through the hike, plus a collapsible bowl for your dog.
  • Food and treats may be necessary for a longer hike or training purposes.
  • Make sure you have current ID tags and a durable collar that fits well.
  • Use a sturdy leash. Keep in mind that most parks require a leash that’s no more than six feet long.
  • Take plenty of doggie bags for waste because you must pick up after your dog. It’s not just sanitary; it protects the environment because their feces can contain bacteria that are harmful to wildlife.
  • Pack a first aid kit for you and one for your pooch. If your area has snakes, you may want to have a snakebite kit as well.
  • You can use towels and blankets to clean your dog up after the hike or create a warm, snug space in the car on a colder day.
  • Pet-friendly sunscreen and bug spray protect your pup.
  • Booties can protect your pup’s paws against sharp objects, snow, and ice.
  • Cooling collars make hot days easier for your dog.

Wow! That seems like a lot to take, but you don’t have to do it alone! You could get your dog a special backpack to carry some of the supplies. Don’t overburden your buddy, but it can lighten your load a little.

3. Choose the Right Trail for Your Dog

dog on hike with owner

Just because a park allows dogs, it doesn’t mean every trail is right for your furry companion. You know your pup better than anyone, including how much they can handle safely. It’s also a good idea to discuss your dog’s health with your vet before taking on something rigorous. Your vet may also have some helpful tips for hiking with a dog in different situations.

Try to pick a trail with plenty of shaded space for resting. Taking breaks to drink water and cool down is easier when you have plenty of room for your dog to stretch out without disrupting traffic on a narrow trail.

When choosing a trail, you may want to avoid any that run through or near hunting areas. It could lead to more active wildlife or unsafe encounters.

You should also think about your own level of expertise when it comes to selecting a hiking trail. If you’re just starting to get into hiking, pick a trail with little to no obstacles. Slowly build up your experience with your pup for more rigourous hikes!

4. Keep an Eye on Your Dog

family hiking with dog

Do you have a curious pup? Most dogs love the excitement of new spaces and can’t wait to sniff things out. Be prepared to pull back on that leash because you never know what your pup could stumble into!

  • Brush up on your plant knowledge for the area you want to hike. You don’t want your dog walking through a bunch of poison ivy or poison oak!
  • Watch out for critters and wild animals, especially if your furry friend tends to chase other animals. Skunk spray or a physical encounter could quickly derail your outing.
  • Pay close attention to your dog, especially if you’re hiking a more rigorous trail or it’s a hot day. Remember that dogs don’t sweat, so they tend to get thirsty before we do!
  • Make sure your dog doesn’t eat anything they shouldn’t, like wild mushrooms, animal droppings, pinecones, or any number of things you might encounter.
  • Don’t let your dog drink out of puddles or standing water because they could pick up harmful parasites or bacteria.

5. Do a Post Hike Check of Your Dog

couple checking dog after hike

It’s essential to check your dog over for signs of injury, irritation, or stowaways. Your furry friend is extremely attractive to fleas, ticks, or other pests who love fur and warmth. The last thing you need is an infestation in your house!

Stowing a cleanup kit in your car is a good idea, especially if you hike in an area with lots of fleas and ticks. If you find any ticks, remove them and watch for signs of Lyme disease.

You probably want to do your best before you get in the car, but you may want to do a more thorough check at home. Plan on giving your pup a good bath to ensure you don’t miss any ticks, bites, or skin reactions from the outing. Double-check their paws for any damage, and make sure you treat any wound so that you can get back out on the trail soon!

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